I am a 20 year old student from the US and will be traveling to Switzerland with my friend who is 21 years old. We are planning our trip from Bern through the Berner Oberland and then possibly into Ascona. I will be in Switzerland for a total of 13 days.
I land in Zurich on May 23 at 1 PM. I will need to get to Thun, which is where I am staying that night. I am staying three nights in Thun, and want to be able to take public transport to Bern and perhaps other nearby places. My friend will arrive either in Zurich or Bern on Saturday May 26.
From there we want to travel through the Berner Oberland, stopping in different towns and villages (Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald) for a night or few, and continuing on to Ascona, perhaps Locarno and/or Lugano. Or we are trying to figure out another way to get into the Italian part of Switzerland. If there is time we want to go into Italy for a little bit, but we aren't sure what the best way to do that is. After that, we need to get back to Zurich.
My inquiry is about train and transportation and whether we should get a (2nd class) Swiss Rail Pass, a Half Fare Card, or buy normal individual tickets. We are students and are looking to do the cheapest option possible, however time is money, and if the prices are close, then the efficiency and flexibility of a Rail Pass would be worth it.
I have done a lot of reading, and know that the only way to be sure about the comparison is to calculate it. I downloaded the spreadsheet template provided on this site. However, I don't understand how individual tickets work. I am confused because based on where I look, prices for individual tickets are vastly different.
When I looked on Trainline, a ticket from Thun to Interlaken is $22.19.
When I looked on SBB.ch a ticket from Thun to Interlaken is 2.80 CHF ($2.93) – and it's also faster(!?). Some other tickets were even greater price difference. Using these ticket prices, it would be VASTLY cheaper to buy individual tickets. However, going from the Trainline, it would seem to be better to get a Swiss Rail Pass. Could someone please explain to me why these ticket prices are so vastly different, and what search website or prices I should use to calculate the individual ticket prices in order to compare to getting a Rail Pass?
Another question I had, is if we get the Rail Pass, can we put two people on one pass, or should we get separate passes? I'm also not sure about the continuous vs. flexipass. It seems that an 8 day pass of one kind would be the best option? (15 days is very expensive.)
Any information or advice or opinions would be very appreciated. Thank you so much!